As Hillary Clinton blames the Kremlin for her election loss, author and attorney Dan Kovalik argues that anti-Russia sentiment is deeply embedded in the U.S. political establishment. Kovalik’s new book is “The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Russia.”
Aaron Maté: It’s the Real News, I’m Aaron Maté. Hillary Clinton continues to at least partly blame alleged Russian meddling for her loss to Donald Trump. This week she said, “Russia didn’t just target her campaign, but the entire country.” Hillary Clinton: Look, I take responsibility for every decision I made, but that’s not why I lost. So I think it’s important that we learn the real lessons from this last campaign because the forces that we are up against are not just interested in influencing our elections and our politics. They are going after our economy and they’re going after our unity as a nation. Aaron Maté: The claim Russia is influencing US politics with White House help won’t go away. But a rarely asked question is why there is such an adversarial US relationship with Russia in the first place. Well a new book explores this question. It’s called “The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State have Conspired to Vilify Putin.” The book’s author is Dan Kovalik, human rights and labor attorney. Welcome Dan. Dan Kovalik: Hi. Thank you. Aaron Maté: Thanks for joining us. So accusing the CIA and the Deep State of conspiring to vilify Putin, as your book title does, those are strong words. What do you mean by that? Dan Kovalik: Well what I mean is that they’re, and this has been going on even before the 2016 election cycle. For the last number of years, there has been an attempt, a successful attempt to vilify Russia and in particular Vladimir Putin. It’s being done by various parts of the intelligence community as well as the compliant media to great success. I think it’s being done in order to justify continued, keeping the US on continued permanent war footing. You know, after the Soviet Union collapsed, first of all I think the Russians thought once communism collapsed, the US and the West would be friends with them. They thought that the US was anti-communist, but not anti-Russian. But in fact as the years went on, it appeared maybe in fact the US was also anti-Russian. We agreed with Mikhail Gorbachev. It’s well established that we agreed with Mikhail Gorbachev that the Berlin Wall would come down if NATO would not move one inch east of Germany. In fact we are now up to the Russian frontier, NATO is, with Macedonia just having been added as I think the 28th member of NATO. I think the Russians scratched their heads as to why we feel we need to have NATO troops up to the border and also feel disappointed as to why we couldn’t be friends after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Aaron Maté: Okay. There are many people, especially I think those who watch MSNBC who would say, well why not vilify Putin? He’s a right wing kleptocrat. There’s repression at home in Russia. He’s homophobic. There’s obviously repression in Chechnya. He’s been bombing civilians in Syria. He meddled in Ukraine, so why not vilify a leader like that? Dan Kovalik: One doesn’t have to accept Putin as a great leader in order to realize that the vilification is based on very exaggerated facts, if you want to call them facts. Look, first of all, let’s start with one fact, that Putin is a very popular leader in Russia. Polls show him polling at you know between 70-80%. Does he have some authoritarian qualities? Yes. There was a homophobic law passed when he was president, which of course I oppose and I think people should be critical of. What’s happening in Chechnya, I want to say is something more complicated. You know Russia had two recent wars with Chechnya. To put what’s happening in Chechnya on Putin’s doorstep, I think is not totally fair. I think Russia has a limited amount of control about what happens there. In any case, why is Russia being singled out for these types of things? Trump just went to Saudi Arabia and signed a $110 billion military deal with them. Obama also sold them huge amounts of arms. Saudi Arabia is not democratic. It is a monarchy. It is less democratic than Russia. It is homophobic. It is anti-woman. It is now waging a war in Yemen with US support that is now very likely to kill millions of people. The UN calls it the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yet, there’s no uproar about that in the United States. Yes, you can point to Putin’s Syria and we can debate his conduct there. You can debate his conduct in Ukraine, but now you’ve pretty much run out of examples haven’t you? You know, the US has destroyed Libya. It’s destroyed Iraq. It’s destroyed Afghanistan. It’s helping Saudi Arabia destroy Yemen. It actually has played its own nefarious role in Syria and Ukraine. Why is it that Putin is being singled out for the couple interventions he’s doing. Meanwhile there’s very little outcry in this country, especially amongst liberals who you would think would know better, against the massive interventions in all these other countries. It just seems bizarre to me. Aaron Maté: Okay Dan. Okay so you’ve answered the why. Your take on it is that there are part of the US state that want to keep America on a permanent war footing in your words, and so one of the targets is Russia. But then let’s get to the how because the subtitle of your book is how the CIA and the Deep State have conspired to vilify Putin. So how have they done that? Dan Kovalik: Well I think one is you have a constant drumbeat from sectors of the US government that are constantly singling out countries like Russia. Venezuela’s another one, for criticism of all the things you’ve said and others. You have a media which has become less and less critical of the narrative that’s being pushed by those sectors of the government. They’re just willing to essentially spout whatever is given to them. Because of this daily … I’ll give you an example of this. I happen to listen to NPR everyday. I don’t know why because I think it’s terrible, but I guess it’s a habit, like any other. They constantly have a drumbeat everyday about Russia. Everyday about Venezuela. Meanwhile they don’t discuss what’s happening in next door Columbia where you have much worse human rights violations than in Venezuela. They’re being sponsored by the United States. Again they’ll talk about Russia and Syria everyday but barely ever mention Yemen and when they do, they almost never mention the US role in the worse humanitarian crisis in Yemen. I think how? They do it in the way that Chomsky and Hermann talked about in their book “Manufacturing Consent.” The establishment talks everyday, disproportionately about the misdeeds, some real, some imagined of our enemies while remaining mute and almost silent about the crimes of the US itself and its allies. That is how it’s done and it’s very effective. Aaron Maté: All right Dan, so listen. On this point of the media and how it covers Russia, which I want to focus on, there was a really interesting development today, which was the French cybersecurity agency came out and said that there’s no trace of Russian hacking behind, of Russian hacking work behind the hack that was targeted at the French president Macron on the eve of the recent French election. When this happened there were widespread reports that there was Russian hacking targeting Macron in favor of Le Pen. It certainly is true that Putin is friendly with Le Pen, but this story of Russian hacking in France was widespread. Now France says there’s no evidence of that. I’m pretty sure that revelation will not get nearly as much play as the original story did. Dan Kovalik: Well that’s exactly right. By the way I’d seen a story that Germany had also done, there had been some time ago claims that Putin had interfered in German elections. Germany’s intelligence community ended up debunking those. Yes, so you have, the media is quite quick to jump to conclusions about alleged meddling for example by Russia in elections. By the way much quicker than evidence could possibly warrant, right? As you say, once those tend to be debunked, you don’t hear about them again. Another example, another nemesis of the US, North Korea, you remember two years ago was accused of hacking Sony. In fact Obama sanctioned North Korea based on the allegations North Korea hacked Sony. In fact it turned out later that most people agreed and a mainstream press quietly had to admit that it was probably an inside job. Someone at Sony had done it themselves, not North Korea. But basically as you say, there is little said about it. The problem was forgotten. The sanctions remain and the vilification continues. That is the problem with what’s happening now. I understand that the Democrats don’t like Trump. They shouldn’t. I mean I don’t like him either. He back out of the Paris Environmental Accords. His domestic policies are retrograde. I get that. They’re searching for ways to undermine him. Fair enough but to latch on to this anti-Russian hysteria, and it is a hysteria, in order to accomplish that, is very short-sighted. The stink of this vilification of Russia will linger way beyond this crisis with Donald Trump. It could lead us toward a confrontation with Russia, a nuclear state that none of us would want and they’re very dangerous. The bulletin of atomic scientists, which keeps the nuclear clock moved it to three minutes to midnight, suggesting that in fact we’re closer to possible nuclear confrontation, in particular with Russia, than we ever have been since I think like 1953. This should be of grave concern to people and I think this is a very dangerous game that’s been played for some time, again even before the 2016 elections but now is certainly being paid on a daily basis, in particular by the liberal establishment, which I find a bit ironic, given at least what they claim to stand for. It’s very dangerous. That is why I wrote the book that I wrote. I think Russia, for all of its faults is a worthy ally. I always go back to the fact that the first world leader to call George Bush after 9/11 was Vladimir Putin, to offer his condolences, to offer to help in Afghanistan and he did help in US operations in Afghanistan. He helped Obama negotiate the nuclear deal with Iran. He also helped broker a peace agreement with Obama in Syria, you might recall in September of last year, which was quickly obliterated when the US military accidentally on purpose bombed 60 some Syrian soldiers a few days after that agreement was reached. I mean these are the things people should be concerned about. Do we actually have civilian control of government? You know you have the President Obama reaching an agreement with Putin only to have the military undermine it. This happens over and over and I think what’s happening with Trump, again while I disagree with him on most issues, I actually agree with his policies of wanting peace with Russia. That seems to be the policy amongst all others that is totally unacceptable to parts of the US government, the FBI, the CIA for example and the liberal establishment and the Democratic Party. That is the thing, and you mentioned Rachel Maddow, that is the thing that is upsetting people, more than anything, when in fact it seems to me we should be welcoming at least an attempt to have a peaceful relationship with that country. Aaron Maté: Okay Dan, just to make a point about welcoming harmony between US and Russia, I agree with you but I’m not sure if that means we should blanketly accept it. Certainly Russia cooperating with the US in the so-called war on terror, I’m not sure is necessarily a good thing. Let me ask you since you bring up Trump and him wanting friendly relations with Russia. Why do you think Trump wants to be so friendly with Russia? Go ahead. Dan Kovalik: I don’t know exactly why. I think frankly because in part it’s common sense. It doesn’t take a genius to want that. Does he possibly have old business ties that lead him to want to do that? Sure. That’s possible. I know he’s accused of that. I accept that that’s probably true, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Right? I know in my book for example, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, the Clinton Foundation accepted millions of dollars of donations from Saudi Arabia. She then turned around and helped approve some military sales to Saudi Arabia. Again, people aren’t concerned about those types of ties. Everyone has ties. Once you become president, you have ties to someone. Again, the question is, to me, whether the ties or whether the county of ties with is one that we consider an enemy or a friend. I think Russia should be considered a friend. If that’s the case then what is the problem? I don’t see it. Aaron Maté: Well Dan Kovalik, I want to thank you for joining us. The books is “The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Putin.” Dan, thank you. Dan Kovalik: Thank you. Aaron Maté: Thank you for joining us on The Real News.